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The term high voltage usually means electrical energy at voltages high enough to inflict harm on living organisms. Equipment and conductors that carry high voltage warrant particular safety requirements and procedures. In certain industries, high voltage means voltage above a particular threshold (see below). High voltage is used in electrical power distribution, in cathode ray tubes, to generate X-rays and particle beams, to demonstrate arcing, for ignition, in photomultiplier tubes, and in high power amplifier vacuum tubes and other industrial and scientific applications.
Voltages greater than 50 V applied across dry unbroken human skin can cause heart fibrillation if they produce electric currents in body tissues that happen to pass through the chest area.
The voltage at which there is the danger of electrocution depends on the electrical conductivity of dry human skin. Living human tissue can be protected from damage by the insulating characteristics of dry skin up to around 50 volts. If the same skin becomes wet, if there are wounds, or if the voltage is applied to electrodes that penetrate the skin, then even voltage sources below 40 V can be lethal.
Accidental contact with high voltage supplying sufficient energy may result in severe injury or death. This can occur as a person's body provides a path for current flow, causing tissue damage and heart failure. Other injuries can include burns from the arc generated by the accidental contact. These burns can be especially dangerous if the victim's airways are affected. Injuries may also be suffered as a result of the physical forces experienced by people who fall from a great height or are thrown a considerable distance.
Low-energy exposure to high voltage may be harmless, such as the spark produced in a dry climate when touching a doorknob after walking across a carpeted floor. The voltage can be in the thousand-volt range, but the current (the rate of charge transfer) is low.
Safety equipment used by electrical workers includes insulated rubber gloves and mats. These protect the user from electric shock. Safety equipment is tested regularly to ensure it is still protecting the user. Test regulations vary according to country. Testing companies can test at up 300,000 volts and offer services from glove testing to Elevated Working Platform (or EWP) testing.
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